When Your Baby Needs a Break
Sometimes even your newborn may need to take a break.
Like adults, babies sometimes get overly tired and need a change from the current engaging activity. Perhaps there are a lot of people visiting, or perhaps there is more noise than usual in your new location outside your home, or perhaps brothers and sisters want to keep playing with their new baby but your newborn has already tired of the interactions. These are just some of the times your baby may need a break, but it gives you an idea of things to consider.
We have addressed some of your baby’s cues in this linked post “Your Baby’s Language,” but I believe this set of baby cues are worth mentioning too because they may be very subtle and easily missed. There are a few ways your newborn will let you know it’s time for a break.
The more subtle cues include turning away from the interaction and breaking eye contact. Looking away may be accompanied by frowning or by having a glazed look. Other need-a-break cues take the form of a raised hand with splayed fingers and palms out … almost like holding up a stop sign, falling asleep, or arching back away from you. If any of these baby cues are missed your newborn may resort to crying to get your attention to let you know something needs to be changed.
You see how these cues may be easily misinterpreted as part of a wide range of behavior. But now that you are aware you might consider the possibility that your baby has grown tired and wants to have a change when you see these cues.
What to Do
When you recognize these baby cues you may honor your baby’s needs by changing the situation. Using the examples above, if there are lots of people visiting, perhaps letting them know your newborn will be disappearing for a nap may give your baby the calm environment needed at that time. If it is unusually noisy where you are, perhaps finding a more quiet place to hang out if possible would be a good change. And if siblings are enthusiastically playing with your newborn, perhaps giving them a new activity that doesn’t include your baby would be a welcome change for awhile. These are simple suggestions that perhaps you would want for yourself if you were overly tired and unable to enjoy the current activities anymore.
In the Beginning
When your newborn is learning to feed, to hold up his or her head, to coordinate movement of arms and legs, and to interact with the environment and with the people in his or her life, it is all work. Inside the womb things like feeding and moving come relatively easy and without effort in a warm, relatively quiet, and comfortable environment. All of that changes very abruptly when your baby is born. So, until muscles develop more, and experiences become more commonplace, your newborn may tire easily.
Now that you are aware of these subtle cues your baby may give you when rest, quiet, or a change of activity or environment are needed, you can help your baby more easily. Responding to your baby’s needs is proven to help your newborn develop trust and an optimistic outlook, qualities that will help give your baby the best start in life. Truly life is good when someone cares.
For you and yours,
D. Fravert, RN
Babies are Smart!
Perhaps you have already noticed … your baby is smart!
Even your newborn gets this praise. Babies, from Day 1 of life, are smart. They are born with a way of “talking” to us that doesn’t necessarily involve crying. Many of us think of crying as the only way babies have to let us know what they need, but that’s not true.
Actually, your baby is born with a set of body-language cues that let you know, way before the crying starts, what your baby needs. Let’s take a look at hunger. When your baby is hungry you need to know, right? It’s good for ensuring the survival of the human race.
So, Mother Nature gave your baby a few cues to let you know. At first, your baby may use the body-language cue known as rooting. Rooting is a combination of sucking on fingers or fists, flailing hands, and turning the head as if looking for something. These body gestures alone are reliable signals to let you know your baby is hungry.
An earlier post “How Do I Know If My Baby Is Hungry?” offers a video demonstration of rooting.
But if you are not able to respond right away to these signals, perhaps you are in the middle of changing your baby’s diaper, your baby will let you know in other ways that food is the number one request at that moment, not a diaper change.
So, to get your attention, and to resend the message more clearly, your baby will add short bursts of crying out … loud, but short, bursts of sound that get your attention … while still signaling with sucking on fists, flailing hands, and head turning.
If the short calls for help aren’t getting the food any faster, your baby will add fussy-baby talk to the mix. This is more like crying, but not full-on crying because your baby is still trying to signal you with the body-language cues too. That’s a lot of work to get your attention!
If the diaper change is taking longer than usual, and feeding is delayed, the only tool your baby has left is full-on crying.
It Gets Better
As you learn to recognize the early hunger cues sooner, and as changing a diaper becomes smoother and faster, your baby will be fed before full-on crying is needed. With consistent reliable baby care, your baby will also become more patient with the diaper change when hungry, knowing from experience that the routine is followed by a feeding.
Perhaps you’ve already noticed how smart your baby is, having experienced this scenario many times throughout your day. And, if your baby is yet to be delivered, you now know how smart your newborn is, and can look forward to the adventure of learning together.
For you and yours,
D. Fravert, RN
Your Baby’s Language
Yes … your baby has a language!
Your baby’s language is composed of coos, cries, and body gestures universal to all babies, no matter where you are in the world. This means that your baby can “talk” to you in a language you can learn and understand.
When your baby is happy you may hear coos and babble, particularly if you initiate the “conversation” and engage your baby. Your happy, awake, newborn is capable of being engaged and paying attention. You should try it!
Crying is the sound your baby makes when something is wrong. Since your baby cannot right the wrong alone, your baby is “asking you” for help. Not only that, but your baby makes different crying sounds in response to the different things that could be wrong. The pain cry, familiar to all of us because it sounds the same no matter the age, sounds different than the hunger cry, or the discomfort cry. You will easily learn to recognize the differences as you pay attention to your baby. The gift of repetition will enhance your learning too!
Your baby also has a set of body gestures, or cues, that help you understand what your baby wants and needs. These cues usually precede crying. Learning to recognize your baby’s body language cues will help you offer food, comfort, a dry diaper, or soothing care for sleep without the need for your baby to cry. Frequent holding, wearing your baby, staring at your little miracle of life, and paying attention to your newborn’s behavior will help you learn everything you need.
One body language cue that you will quickly learn to recognize in your newborn is the rooting cue demonstrated by two-week old Vanessa in the earlier post
“How Do I Know If My Newborn Is Hungry?”